Injustice: Gods Among Us review 
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Geoffrey Tim
April 16, 2013 at 3:00 pm

NetherRealm successfully rebooted Mortal Kombat, returning the series to its roots and making the hyper-violent fighter relevant again. It’s now taking on the DC licence for a second time, trying to atone for its sins with the frankly awful Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. Injustice: Gods Among Us does away with Mortal Kombat’s baggage and with it the gratuitous violence, focusing instead on just the heroes and villains from the comic books. It’s a better game for it.

Like Mortal Kombat, there’s a somewhat meaty narrative that drives Injustice towards being a worthwhile single player experience; something that can’t be said for most fighting games where the meat is in the multiplayer. There’s a story that attempts (and nearly succeeds!) in explaining and justifying jus why so many metahumans and people in skin-tight suits are going head to head, along with a little Deus ex Machina  that explains just how it is that human characters like Batman can stand toe-to-toe with the indestructible gods like Superman and Doomsday.

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I won’t spoil the narrative for those of you who haven’t read the prequel comics, but it all boils down to this; tricked in to doing the unfathomable, Superman snaps, misaligning his moral compass, leading him on a path that results in him and his well-coiffed hair essentially enslaving all of earth – ruling over humans and metahumans alike with a despotic, super-powered iron fist.

Naturally, there’s a hero-led insurgency, and it will be up to the player to bring an evil superman’s reign to an end. Taking place largely in an alternate universe, it sees numerous characters changing allegiances for the greater good. Good guys become bad, bad guys become good. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria! The single-player campaign attempts to be a grand and cinematic affair, breaking up brawls with cut-scenes and interactive quick-time-event minigames as it switches between characters, forcing you to learn the intricacies of each character. Or, as all but the most dedicated players will do, just furiously mash buttons together. Really though, it’s just an excuse to stitch fights together.

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There’s even more value for the single player in a range of tutorials that’ll help players learn the nitty-gritty of fighting, and a set of character specific challenges under the guise of the S.T.A.R.S Labs. With 10 challenges for each character, and 24 initial characters, there’s certainly a lot to keep you occupied. A largely pointless XP system aids in unlocking artwork, character skins and other inconsequential fluff. Still, there’s far more single player content than you’d expect from a fighter. 

Fighting games aren’t about stories though; their success hinges on their mechanics and how fun they are to play. While you’d expect Injustice to be little more than Mortal Kombat re-skinned, the entire fighting system’s been given an overhaul. It dispenses with many of Mortal Kombat’s traditions, leaning towards a more Capcom styled play style. Gone is a dedicated block button; that action now performed by holding back for high attacks, and down for low ones. Even the button config’s different. No longer are there separate buttons for different kicks and punches, with game employing something closer to Marvel vs. Capcom’s layout; low, medium and high attacks, appended with another button for character specific traits, and another to use the super-meter that builds up during fights.

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These traits are where things become interesting, changing the flow of combat. Each character does something a little different at the press of a button activating abilities; likely favourite Batman pulls three batbombs out of thin air, which can then be thrown; Superman draws in the power of the sun allowing him to do extra damage; Green Arrow fires…well, a magical green arrow; Bane injects himself with venom, increasing his strength and defence, while Hawkgirl takes to the air.

Injustice also adopts Street Fighter IV’s Focus Attack-Dash-Cancel system, here called a “bounce cancel” to allow for breaking in and out of combos, extending said combos, or punishing whiffed attacks. It adds quite a bit of depth and strategy to the fighting system – though, like in SFIV, it’s something that most casual players just won’t bother with.

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Also new is a system called “The Clash,” a wager-based fight interruption. Initiated with forward and heavy attack, the fight is halted, with each player placing a hidden bet using a portion of their super meters. The highest bidder wins, rewarding health for successful wagers, or taking chunks of it away in the case of a loss. I can’t say I’m too fond of it; it feels like forced mini-game in the middle of a fight, but it does add another strategic layer to a pretty deep fighter. 

Most attacks can be augmented by burning away bits of the charged super-meter; extending combos by adding an extra hit, or doing extra damage. A fully-charged, level 4 super meter allows the execution of a devastating Super Move, in the vein of Mortal Kombat’s X-Ray moves or Street Fighter IV’s Ultra-combos. They’re fun to do, and fun to watch, though some of them can be so grandiose that they detract from the actual fighting.

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The levels, like the characters themselves, are all splendidly diverse, with an array of geeky fan-service references for those well versed in DC lore; from Superman’s Fortress of Solitude to the Bat cave and the bowels of Arkham Asylum. They’re also interactive in their own way, with bits of the semi-destructible environment available for use as attacks; like missiles fired from the Batmobile, or steaming hot pipes in Arkham Asylum. There’s a distinct thrill in watching the world around you take as much damage as your character.

Fighting games reward fast reflexes and an innate ability to read your opponent, finding the perfect balance between offense and defence, and to that end, Injustice is still a fighting game that follows the established tropes of the genre. Genre fans will play it for weeks, even months – poking for strategies and combos, strengths and weaknesses. It is they who’ll determine the game’s ultimate longevity, after determining how balanced or perhaps unbalanced the characters are. From my perspective right now, it’s certainly leaning towards an imbalance; power characters like Solomon Grundy seem a tad overpowered, and there are some cheap and dirty tactics from the likes of Killer Frost, Shazam and Deathstroke, but only time – and high level play – will tell.

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It’s also unfortunate that once again, NetherRealm has relied on its own netcode instead of the near standard GGPO netcode, so online play is often patchy – though it’s certainly better than Mortal Kombat 9’s dismal online offering.

Most importantly, it’s fun. The super hero-infused setting though opens it up to players who aren’t quite as enthusiastic about fighting games, but they’ll get the least out of it. Most players will, instead, get their kicks from having their friends around on a beery Friday night; finally putting paid to the question of which spandex-clad metahuman would win in a fight.

Conclusion

Mortal Kombat adherents might be appalled by the lack of bloody, gratuitous violence, but Injustice is a wet dream for comic-book fans, and a competent fighting game to boot.
7.5

Injustice: Gods Among Us was reviewed by Geoffrey Tim on a Xbox 360

I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces.I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.I am also the emperor of the backend

  • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

    Superman evil? Now he may actually be cool!

    • Lourens Jordaan

      You know nothing John Snow.

      • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

        Who the hek is John Snow?

        • Johan du Preez

          Winter is coming :)

          • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

            Ah. Right

  • Trebzz

    Give us a comp i demand this :P thanks for the review

  • Deon Steyn

    I call woman abuse. I count two pics where Wonder Women is being abused. The Americans wont be happy. To bad the story is so short, I’m not that big a fan of online play. :(

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      There’s plenty else to keep you occupied. :) Game is fun, certainly worth playing.

      • Deon Steyn

        Will do, but not yet ready to trade in Bioshock. Waiting to see how the new Resident Evil pans out. Actually a bit excited.

    • Trevor Davies

      I noticed that too – quick, to the internet to complain about sexism!

      Although I do like the pic of what appears to be Batman being run over by the Batmobile while his opponent looks on in disbelief.

      • Deon Steyn

        He’s Batman and he has a Batmobile as a weapon http://youtu.be/DgQALLBx9q8?t=25s

        • Trevor Davies

          Don’t spoil my fantasy with facts :( I want to see Batroadkillman.

          • Deon Steyn

            Lot of hate towards Batman. But I agree, some time hes portrayed to tough for a guy with no super powers.

  • http://twitter.com/Darrangedd Darryn Bonthuys

    7.5? Fucking sold

    • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

      Please. You were sold when you saw Batman was a playable character :P

      • Admiral Chief Erwin

        XDXDXDXD

  • AndriyP

    This seems very cool, havent indulged in a fighting game since Tekken 5

    • fred

      Try DOA5 too ,good fighter and looks great

  • Rincethis: Spellalicious

    There are few things in this world that would give me greater pleasure than taking Batman’s (read OVG’s) own head, and pushing it up his own arse. I loved SFIV (actually was playing it just the other day) and wonder what characters would be most equally levelled in this one (I always play as Ryu, I know, boring, but that way OVG can’t bitch about not being able to fireball my ass too…)

  • caponeil

    Think I will get this now and maybe get Bioshack later!

  • judge-mental

    Hah! Nice ghostbusters quote there *tips hat*

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carl-Angus/685100819 Carl Angus

    I’ve pre-ordered this one, also I believe BT games is offering 30% extra on trade ins for this game.

    Netherealms has got the right formula for the fighting game ever since MK9, while I miss the Fatalities and lack of gore, I’m stoked to check out the level transitions and interactive environments.

  • Deon Steyn

    Um I didn’t read anything about creating tag team matches? Like creating
    a team with Batman and Joker, impossibru I know but it should be a
    funny combination if the link moves together. Is that possible in the
    game like with MK9?

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      No tag team stuff, i’m afraid. It’s 1v1.

      • Dr.Flawsalot

        Biggest flaw!

  • Ultimo_Cleric_N7

    Yet another reason to drop PC. Sorry to say it, but its true.

    • Syph1n

      trollololololol

      • Ultimo_Cleric_N7

        heeehee. Caught me

  • ElNicko

    Awesome review Geoff – Cant wait for Friday to get here.
    Favourite character so far ??

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      I dig Deathstroke, the cheap bastard. Really enjoying Bats and Nightwing, and keen to see what HawkGirl is really capable of.

      • ElNicko

        gonna go out on a limb here and assume Deathstrike is as fun to play as Deadpool from MVC3 ?? ??

    • Aussious

      So I take it the local release is this Friday?

  • Tbone187

    Always thought the Tekken button config was the way forward for beat’emups…(button for each limb) Imagine it here with a similar 3d environment and gameplay…And btw, Flash looks wicked…

  • Aussious

    Great review Geoff, I’ve been looking forward to this since it was announced last year. Being an MK fan and comic book enthusiast this is definitely right up my ally. Its safe to say that Midway.. erhm Nether-realm are the only producers of fighting games that actually care about narrative and story telling. MK9 had the best story in a fighting game since Def Jam 2: Fight for NY.

  • http://www.facebook.com/YukiIglesias Jose Iglesias

    I agree with your point on Deathstroke and Grundy being a bit powerful. Though Grundy is really the only one I can complain about since Deathstroke is manageable if you block since his attacks have pretty wide tells. Overall very accurate review, very fair. Though I was dissapointed with only 24 characters, I hope there will be more than the 5 they confirmed for the season pass.

  • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

    I finally got my dirty little hands on Injustice, and it’s… AWESOME! I’ll admit, I was sceptical. Even though I enjoyed the last Mortal Kombat game…. when I heard they were making a fighting game based on the DC universe, my first thought was… Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe…. followed by a hearty sigh of MEH!

    BUT!!!

    It’s not MK vs DC U, it’s actually a lot better. It’s freaking awesome.

  • Lardus

    Does buying the original get one the Season Pass code as well, or is that another 1200 MS points for nothing?

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